Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why They Lie

Image credit: Parody by Cujo359 (See NOTE)

At Naked Capitalism, Matt Stoller encapsulated Barack Obama and the reason so many people still believe in him despite his complete betrayal of what we thought of as Democratic Party principles once he took office:

Obama had shown this breathtaking tendency to con people as they knew they were being conned before, the most public time during the campaign being his cynical answer when he was asked about his promise to renegotiate NAFTA. He had said, when fighting for union votes with Clinton, “I will make sure we renegotiate (NAFTA).” Even as he said this, it turns out that campaign advisor Austan Goolsbee had gone to Canada to assure them this was a lie (sure enough, Obama’s trade policies are identical to Bush’s, or worse). And once the election ended, and Obama was asked about his broken promise by a reporter, he gave the following answer.

“This is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign,” President Obama said during his Transition in early December, when a reporter asked him about criticisms he and now-Secretary of State Clinton had made about each other’s foreign policy views.

“They’re your quotes, sir,” said the reporter, Peter Baker of the New York Times.

“No, I understand. And you’re having fun,” Obama continued. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not faulting it.”

This is cynicism as art. It’s literally a Presidential candidate running on hope and change saying that campaign promises are a joke and a ruse.

The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes from Our Willingness to Be Tricked

What Obama did there, in the starkest way imaginable, is meet our expectations of what a politician will be. "Hah, hah! 'The politician is lying again.' Can't you guys find some new material?", he seems to be saying there. Far too many of us simply expect to be lied to, as if this were the only way things could possibly be.

If that's our expectation, then politicians will never have to do otherwise. There's a difference between accepting that such a thing is inevitable, and assuming it's going to happen some or much of the time. In the former case, then the politicians we elect will live down to our expectations. In the latter case, they might learn to be better.

This wasn't a case of a politician making a campaign promise he either figured he couldn't live up to, or a campaign promise that he tried to live up to, but couldn't. Here, candidate Obama had absolutely no intention of living up to what he said on the campaign trail. It was nothing but a bald-faced, cynical lie, and plenty of his adoring supporters went along with this because, at least in his case, they don't expect any better.

If you want the world to be better, and your leaders to be better, then start by expecting them to be, and voting them out when they aren't. Until you do, you're not going to get what you want. Unless, of course, you like being lied to.

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